Outside of private matches, Xbox Live multiplayer can be a hostile and abusive place. And when your brand is as intrinsic to Xbox Live multiplayer as Halo, there's a strong chance it will be Halo negatively associated with it.
Two pivotal members of the Halo 4 team have publicly reprimanded that kind of behaviour ahead of their blockbuster game's release. One of those people is 343 Industries studio head Bonnie Ross; the other, executive producer Kiki Wolfkill.
"It can be dangerous to give adolescents a broadcast mechanism," Kiki Wolfkill told GameSpot Australia. "There are always going to be jerks out there, and if you give them a way to express that side of their personality without being seen, you're going to see this type of behaviour manifest itself."
Some of that behaviour has been archived on Fat, Ugly or Slutty, a website that exposes but also laughs at the abuse thrown around Xbox Live. The Fat, Ugly or Slutty name refers to the three topics most of the abusive messages can be grouped under.
Here are some charming examples of messages received on Xbox Live and shared recently on Fat, Ugly or Slutty:
- "i bet ur fat"
- "sup baby ;) wanna go to pound town? get f***ed up. OVERDOSE!"
- "Slob Me Cack Please?"
Bonnie Ross rightfully trashed such behaviour as "offensive and completely unacceptable". "I'd like to think most of our Xbox Live players don't support this kind of behaviour," she said.
To ensure their game wasn't one that encouraged this kind of sexism, gender portrayal was a topic that ran deep during Halo 4's development.
"With Halo 4, we were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game," said Ross, "and if we came off stereotypical, we went back to question what we were doing and why."
Bonnie Ross said her role as boss of 343 has also challenged some gaming stereotypes.
"Most people look at a franchise like Halo, and automatically assume it's run by a guy," she added. "People are surprised to learn that it's a woman who's running the Halo 4 show.
"When Microsoft created 343 Industries to take over Halo, I was given first choice to run the studio because I had proven myself. My gender played no part in it."
Halo 4 launches worldwide this coming Tuesday, 6th November.